- John Minton
- Landscape with Harvester Resting
- pen and ink, ink wash and gouache on paper
Mrs Don Forrest
Her sale, Sotheby's London, 8th March 1978, lot 110
Dr. John Birch
His sale, Woolley & Wallis Salisbury, 19th September 2012, lot 207
Fine Art Society, London, where acquired by the present owner
Chichester, Pallant House Gallery, Poets in the Landscape: The Romantic Spirit in British Art, 31st March - 10th June 2007, cat. no.56.
(John Minton, Speculations on the Contemporary Painter, City of Birmingham School of Printing, Birmingham, 1952, p.3)
In 1942, as Britain was in the throes of the Second Word War, John Piper published a small book entitled British Romantic Artists, as part of the Britain in Pictures series, which alongside afternoon concerts at London’s National Gallery and a programme of other cultural events across the country, proved that life and art must go on, even in wartime. In the small volume Piper discussed the inherently British nature of the Romantic artists and their pastoral ideals, from William Blake and Samuel Palmer, through to contemporaries such as Frances Hodgkins, Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland. The book captured what soon became known as the Neo-Romantic movement, of which Piper and Sutherland were key exponents alongside a younger generation of artists including John Craxton, Keith Vaughan and John Minton.
When War began Minton initially registered as a conscientious objector, but in December 1941 he enlisted in the Pioneer Corps. In his early months he was stationed in Barmouth, North Wales and later Ascot in the Berkshire countryside where he was kept updated on the news and gossip of the London art scene by friends such as Michael Middleton, who would send him copies of Horizon magazine. Here he poured over reproductions of Sutherland’s landscapes, writing to a friend: ‘About Sutherland, I agree; at least I feel we may have someone in England who approaches landscape clearly and directly, completely ignoring all the impressionist fol-de-rol which has been the downfall of most Englishmen painting landscape' (John Minton, quoted in Frances Spalding, John Minton, Dance Till The Stars Come Down, Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2005, p.54).
Minton became fascinated by the landscape, both in relation to the work of artists that had gone before him but also as a means by which to explore his own dark and brooding subjects that he had been working on in London’s docklands at the start of the war. The poetic balance and the interplay between light and shadow, so beautifully captured in the medium of pen and ink that Minton focused on during this period, all found so welcome an outlet within the language that depicting the landscapes and figures within them allowed. As Minton wrote to Middleton: ‘More and more landscape interests me…the elaborate gestures of trees poised with a rich silence in the blue air, quivering and dense’ (John Minton, quoted ibid, p.55). Minton’s landscapes of this period are quintessentially British, seen in the present work's stacked wheat and spiky branches hidden under the shining crescent moon. In the lower left lies a harvester slumped against the corn: a dreamer in a landscape of washed and pooling inks. As Minton’s on-off friend and contemporary Michael Ayrton wrote in 1946: ‘Minton is English and Palmer shines through him’ (quoted in Simon Martin, Martin Butlin and Robert Meyrick, Poets in the Landscape: The Romantic Spirit in British Art, (exh. cat.), Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, 2007, p.95), and this relationship is clearly visible in the present work, which wonderfully captures the connection that Minton felt between man and his surroundings in Britain – a connection which, over the course of the century was to dramatically shift and alter.